Thursday, July 28, 2005


I’m currently living in a house with two absolutely crazy boys. Let’s just say, they make life here interesting. Wangai, who turned four a few months ago is always coming up with some hilarious statements, and I started to keep track of them… Here are some of the funnier things he’s said. Enjoy!

*Don’t forget to read the italicized stuff… it really helps to give context!

Wangai: Uncle? What are you doing in there?
Uncle Barry: (sick with fever) Lying down, doing nothing…
Mo: Wangai, that was a question with no legs. Can you imagine a question with no legs? It doesn’t go anywhere.
(from a bedtime prayer)
Wangai: …and thank you for daddy, and my cousins, and for girls, who cry a lot, who cry like babies…and thank you for Jesus, who beats up Satan, and thank you for Uncle, and thank you for all the people in the world…
Uncle Barry: Wangai! Take your finger out of your nose! That’s rude.
Wangai: But it’s sticky!
(from another bedtime prayer)
Wangai: …Please Lord, help Spiderman’s eyes to not be so scary. And help him to run very fast. And help him to beat up all the bad people, who do bad things…

Wangai: Happy birthday to my muscles… happy birthday to my muscles…
Uncle Barry: Wow. That’s a cool car.
Wangai: (flying the car around the room) It is a flying car!
Uncle Barry: Does it go in water too?
Wangai: Yes, it goes in water and air and mud!
Uncle Barry: Even mud?
Wangai: Yes, and in water it goes so fast!
Uncle Barry: How fast?
Wangai: Like this… (driving car all over the bed) whishhhhhh…
Uncle Barry: How many miles per hour?
Wangai: (holds up 10 fingers) This many! A thousand hours!
Wangai: (at the dinner table) These are beans.
Uncle Barry: Where do beans come from?
Wangai: They come from cows.

Wangai: (wearing his lion costume) Lions can eat you! They take off your skin and eat your nyama!
Uncle Barry: They can? Wow!
Wangai: And they can eat houses!
Uncle Barry: Even houses?
Wangai: Yeah! And they can fly!
Uncle Barry: Lions can fly?
Wangai: Yes. They are strong.

*Nyama means “meat” in Swahili.
Wangai: (watching the Sound of Music, as the nuns are singing ''How do you solve a problem like Maria") They are mad at her. They want to kill her!

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

A stupid decision... an awesome retreat!

Well, I just got done with my second personal retreat (to read about my first one, check out Kenya Email Update #8). Like my last one, it was pretty dang amazing. Unfortunately, the “amazing” part didn’t really happen till last night and this morning (right before leaving). The rest of the retreat was pretty miserable…

You see, I made the brilliant decision to try fasting the whole time. 48 hours of only water. Of course, it sounded good on paper, but the longest I had ever fasted before was 30 hours back in Junior High. Hehe… Looking back it was a pretty stupid idea to go so long.

But I guess God still works through our stupid decisions. In fact, he did things for me that never would have happened if I had been eating the whole time!

Last night, as I was miserably swimming in and out of consciousness, desperately wishing for the retreat to be over, something clicked. I sat up in my chair, got a pen, and started journaling. The things that were written on the page totally surprised me. All of a sudden I was thinking logically, as if I was in my “zone” (which usually only happens after three cups of coffee).

I came up with some awesome next steps for the rest of this year. I had a clear vision of where I was headed and who I wanted to be when I left. Then, exhausted, I fell into bed. To describe what happened when I woke up, I’ll just copy straight from my next journal entry… (sorry for the length… I was really feelin’ it.)


Ok. So I gave in. When I woke up this morning I was miserable. My body was shaking uncontrollably, my head was spinning, and I honestly felt like I was in the midst of some terrible disease. Needless to say, it wasn’t my favorite experience ever.

So yeah. I went out to the dining hall (after a mindless and nauseating shower), and asked to have breakfast. Eggs and toast have never tasted so good. Believe me. I ate more than half of a loaf of bread and threw down two cups of coffee. Then I ran back to my bed, threw my Massai blanket over myself, and dozed as the food worked energy into my system.

When I woke up, I felt so much better. I grabbed the notebook on which I had written last-night’s thoughts and started praying over all my decisions. I prayed without interruption for 30 minutes! It was amazing! I actually sat there talking to God without letting my mind wander! Now, I don’t want to over-spiritualize the moment, but it honestly felt like God was right there, listening to me. Wow.

Right now I’m at Java, enjoying a wonderful lunch (burger and chips). In fact, I think I’ll go all the way. I’m getting ice cream (single scoop of course… don’t want to overdo it!).

As I look back on my retreat, I see a few interesting things emerging. As miserable as I was going without food for so long, I’m kind of glad I did it. Kind of! It did force me to rely on God and definitely taught me to appreciate food. Now, on my next retreat, I’m doing meals. It is hard to make serious life changing decisions when all I can do is stare off into space, barely engaging with reality…

But because I couldn’t do anything on my own, I believe that God gave me the insights I received. I think if I alone had been making those lists, they would have been something like 1) Yarp enoughly. 2) Find my do consistently 3) Happy my peoples between mountain goats…

As it was, however, I think I came up with some really good stuff. And my prayer this morning? Wow. I doubt it would have been so sincere if I was still fat n’ happy. So after all that, I think it worked out for the best. Or maybe God took my dumb decision and made the best out of it…

Whatever the case, I’m excited about what the next 5 and a half months have in store for me. It’ll be a wild, much-too-quick, life-changing, challenging and memorable time. Can’t wait!

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Thinkin 'bout home...

Ok, so now that the GCC team is gone, I’ve been thinking about home a lot. Which is dumb, because it will be a good five or six months before I can actually get there! I’m trying to get my mind re-focused on Nairobi, but it’s hard.

I’ll be sitting in the matatu, when suddenly I feel the loss of video games intensely… or I’ll be walking through South C, when out of nowhere this urge for Starbucks coffee hits me… or the worst… longing for food items that don’t exist in Kenya! Do you have any idea how awful it is wishing for Lou Malnati’s pizza, when all you have in front of you is a steaming pile of ugali???

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love being here. It’s an amazing experience! It’s just that… after having the GCC team here for two weeks, they sort of forced me to remember all of the things I missed! People talking about driving to church (mmm, driving…) or playing video games (mmm, Xbox…) or hanging out at night (mmm, being in a place where I can go outside after dark without the fear of being mugged...)… *sigh*

Honestly, I never thought I’d miss getting stuck in traffic on 465. I never knew how much I loved the old, squeaky wood floors in our house. Most of all, I totally took for granted the accessibility of my friends and family all the time! Hopefully this experience will teach me to value the little things that make my life what it is each day!

Ok, I’m done. I’ve got trees to climb, lions to kill and loincloths to make*. Man. It sure is tough being in Kenya!!!

*I do not actually wear loincloths. I do, however, kill a ton of lions. Seriously. All the time. With my bare hands.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Kenya Email Update #9

June 2005. Without a doubt one of the most crazy, enjoyable, stressful, unique and surreal months of my life! In less than 30 days I drove through a herd of Cape buffalo, walked around a filthy slum with a kid I used to baby-sit, ate fresh lobster while staring out at the Indian Ocean, wandered through a strange Kenyan city with my old Xbox playing buddy and listened to a sermon by a guest preacher from a far away country (who also happened to be my dad). Hah! Just reading that sentence makes me laugh. Did it really all happen last month???

Yes. Yes it did. And I survived to tell the tale! Barely…

After a week and a half of crazy, last-minute preparations, June 11th was finally here. The chapel pastors and interns rolled out of bed, threw on some clothes, and drove out to the airport as the Saturday morning sun began to rise. What we met there was a sight that must have chilled the blood of the customs worker – 67 young Americans with bloodshot eyes and confused expressions, staggering off the plane into a country they’d never visited before! If it weren’t for the fact that I knew many of them, I too would have been paralyzed with fear!

A barrage of bleary-eyed greetings and hugs kicked off a trip that would deeply impact many young lives, affecting hundreds more in the process.

Now, there’s no way that I’ll be able to give a detailed account of the entire GCC team experience, so I’ll just give a really broad overview. The Grace team was divided among the five church plants of Nairobi Chapel. Each of the five teams did some similar activities, but had completely unique experiences. For example, all five churches had a slum visit day, but this looked completely different for each team. Our team (Mombasa Road) visited the congregation members of a church in the slums, while other teams helped at slum clinics and showed evangelistic films. You get the idea…

Of course, some of the differences were really unfair. Hehe… The meeting place for Mombasa Road was only a few minutes walking distance from just about everywhere in tightly packed South B and C. The Ngong road team however, had to walk roughly a billion miles each day (give or take a few). At the end of the week, all the members of that team could have easily walked from Grace to I-465 without even flinching! Seriously! They all had these weird, sculpted leg muscles that looked like the mannequins in some sporting goods store…

Each of the GCC team members (kids and adults alike) were hosted individually or in pairs by Chapel’s congregation members, which led to more than a few interesting stories. Some of the kids stayed in gigantic houses with like 30 guard dogs, roses decorating their room and hosts who would tuck them in at night. Other kids stayed in these tiny, run-down apartments that make inner-city Chicago look like Beverly Hills.

I believe the whole experience was life-changing for everyone involved. The Grace team was obviously impacted deeply by the things they saw and experienced. The Chapel staff was totally energized about the many new ministry opportunities offered by the GCC team’s presence. The Chapel congregation was also exposed to things they had never done before (most of our Chapel team had actually never been inside a slum!). The list goes on… I didn’t even mention the way this trip influenced financial supporters, families of team members and people in the communities where we worked all week! This was a huge event in the lives of both Grace Community Church and Nairobi Chapel!

Oh, and where do I even begin to describe all the things I personally felt, heard, experienced, and learned while the GCC team was here? For one, I discovered just how much I’ve changed in the past 6 months! Chris Yonan and David Byers (the only Mombasa Road team members who knew me before I left) were both surprised at how much I’ve grown.

I spent some real quality time talking and laughing with my family too! Lucy was part of the Ngong road team (she probably walks to church now!), and my parents came to discuss partnership issues with the Chapel pastors. I was amazed at how easily we picked up where we left off. As many of you know, my family is absurdly close (though absurdly small by Kenyan standards), so it was easy for us to reconnect and share.

During the second GCC week, the whole team (my family included) went out to Massai Mara for safari and debrief. The debrief was great. The safari was… not quite as great. We saw very few animals (it was off-season according to our driver) and spent our morning safari getting our van pulled out of the mud, imagining what safaris with real animals must be like…

On top of all that, our driver kept trying to make up for the lack of animals! Once we were cruising along, enjoying the view, when all of a sudden he slammed on the brakes (throwing us all over the place), pointed out the left window and nearly screamed “Look! Warthog!!!” We looked, straining our eyes to find this glorious animal. Finally, after almost giving up, I saw it… One of Kenya’s most majestic warthogs, walking along the horizon about 3000 miles away. Of course, at that distance, it could have been a Ravenous Rift Valley Horsebeast and I wouldn’t have known the difference… Good times!

Sadly, the GCC team left a couple days after Massai Mara, just as I was getting used to having them around! The whole experience felt at once like 3 months and 2 days! Does that make any sense? I was so sad to see them go so soon, but so relieved that we could get back to reality again. Our usual day-to-day stress was amplified into 2 weeks of veritable chaos (just imagine hosting, feeding, transporting and watching out for 67 Kenyans for two weeks and you’ll know how we felt)!

While the rest of the Chapel staff was unwinding and getting back to life-as-usual, I was hanging with Chris Yonan, who stayed in Nairobi for an extra week. We had a great time watching movies, eating food, riding matatus… and of course being really stupid (it’s good to know not much has changed between us!). Our trip to the coast was one of the best vacations of my life, but I won’t write about it here. If you want to read my account of our experience (as well as a few updates written about the GCC week), check out my blog ( The best option if you want information about our adventures would be just to go talk to Chris himself! You’ll find him wandering around Grace daydreaming about Mombasa and the most perfect beach in the world…

Well, that about brings me up to the present. As I write this sentence, I’m at a church planting team retreat. We’re vision casting, planning, and praying at this nice retreat center about an hour outside of Nairobi. In less than three weeks we’ll be moving to our new venue in South C! From that point on, we will be a completely independent congregation, handling every aspect of our church by ourselves. I’m so pumped!!!

I’ll be sure to update you more as things develop. For now, enjoy your blazing hot summer (We’re struggling through bitterly cold 65 degree weather right now! I think I’m turning Kenyan… You should have seen me blowing on my hands and jumping up and down as these Grace guys walked around in T-shirts!).

Anyway, gotta run! We’re meeting to discuss our volunteer raising strategy in 10 minutes! Keep in touch!


p.s. Thanks for all of you who have sent me pictures! It’s great to see all your smiling faces!

Monday, July 04, 2005


Last week, Chris Yonan and I did something we’ve been dreaming about for years. We went alone on an adventurous journey to the coast of Kenya! We had no plans, no reservations, and no knowledge of the city we’d be visiting. What came from such a last-minute, disorganized trip? The most adventurous, exciting and memorable vacation either of us has ever had! Here are a few of the stories that came from this crazy trip to Mombasa…

We didn’t want to dish out money for a plane, couldn’t take a train, and had no transportation of our own. So we decided to take an overnight coach bus that would drop us in Mombasa 8 hours after leaving Nairobi! Our seats on the way there were right over the back wheels (so we felt every single bump!). Chris slept because he can sleep anywhere, but I only dozed off a few times. Good times!

We arrived dead tired in a city we've never visited, vague directions in our hands, knowing only that we'd be spending the night at the house of a sister of a friend of a friend. A year ago, I would have curled up in a corner and cried. Now, however, being lost in some strange foreign city is an adventure! I led a sleepwalking Chris onto a matatu, hoping that it would get us where we needed to go…

Needless to say, we found the place without dying. We spent the day exploring Mombasa… Buying red bananas at a crowded market, wandering through the winding streets of “old town,” and exploring an old Portuguese fort that looks out over the water. We ended up sitting on one of the high walls, drinking freshly squeezed lime juice, and watching tug boats sail into the Indian Ocean. And yes, it was just that idyllic!

The next day, we took two matatus, a crowded ferry, and two more matatus (about an hour traveling time), to arrive at Diani beach. Our amazingly complex plan was to get there, find a place to stay, and stay there. I guess it worked, because 45 minutes later, we were staring out from the porch of our beach-side cottage at perfect white sands being washed by the beautiful blue-green ocean. Because it was off season for travelers, there was almost nobody on the beach. The picture below doesn’t do justice to the beauty of where we stayed!

Swimming in the Indian Ocean, eating fresh lobster at a gorgeous restaurant only feet from the water, and soaking up the eternally perfect view… I’ll be honest. It didn’t seem real. Chris and I kept looking at each other and laughing. How in the world did we find this place??? Let’s just say Florida will never be as exciting as it used to be.

Before we knew it, it was time to leave. We had to get back to Mombasa to catch another night-bus back to Nairobi. As we were re-packing our backpacks, the most amazing thing happened!

We were in the bathroom putting our toiletries away, when a rustling noise came from our room. We both thought, “Why are they cleaning our room now? We haven’t even left yet!” I peeked my head around the corner and said “Umm…” Until Chris looked too.

There, in the middle of our room, was this huge baboon eating the rest of our Twizzlers! We were mesmerized as he downed these things like it was his job! I cautiously snuck over to my backpack for my camera. I started snapping away as the baboon began looking around the room for more food. I guess he was looking for a buffet table or something. Seeing nothing edible, he stared at the rest of the Twizzlers, deciding whether to finish them right then or save them for later. I guess he chose the latter because he grabbed the bag and bolted out of the room!

While we were still laughing about our amazing baboon friend, Chris noticed something out of the corner of his eye. The baboon was back! He knocked over our trash can, licking candy wrappers, and then went into our bathroom, simply unwilling to believe that we didn’t have any more food. Finally, after searching through Chris’ backpack, he left for good, content that he had found it all.

Quite an experience… let me tell you. We’re already planning to go back some day. Especially because we found this great Cantonese place in Mombasa (I’ll be sure to give you directions next time you’re in town…). It’s funny. Those of you that knew me back in Junior High and early High School… Would you have ever believed that this jittery little band-geek would grow up to become a world-traveling, baboon-befriending, Swahili-speaking adventurer?
Yeah. Me neither.